National: Democratic Lawmakers Seek FBI Briefing on Election Interference | Dustin Volz and Andrew Duehren/Wall Street Journal

Democratic congressional leaders asked the FBI to brief lawmakers on foreign interference operations targeting the November elections, saying they were alarmed by what they described as an attempt to influence the workings of Congress. In a letter Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, asked Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray for a briefing as soon as possible and no later than the start of the August congressional recess, citing the “seriousness and specificity of these threats.” The letter said the threats were ongoing. “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” the letter said. The request stems from Democrats’ concerns that a Republican investigation into work that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, did for a Ukrainian natural-gas company was being amplified, and possibly driven, by a foreign interference operation likely tied to Russia, a person familiar with the matter said. The written request included a “classified addendum” drawn largely from the executive branch’s own reporting and analysis, a congressional official familiar with the matter said.

National: Inside the Biden campaign’s pushback against foreign interference | Natasha Bertrand/Politico

Joe Biden has released his most comprehensive statement yet warning against foreign election interference and threatening to hold the Kremlin and other foreign governments accountable for any meddling if he is elected president. In the 700-word statement, first obtained by POLITICO, the presumptive Democratic nominee said he “will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” and plans to “direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections.” He added that he would direct his administration “to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators”—including potential sanctions and cyber responses—and will call on the the Pentagon, DHS, the FBI, and the State Department “to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process.” Biden’s remarks came on the same day that Democratic lawmakers raised new concerns about foreign influence operations in a letter to the FBI requesting fresh counterintelligence briefings ahead of the election. And they come as Biden’s campaign advisers have begun speaking out with fresh urgency about what they fear could become a serious threat.

National: How Your Local Election Clerk Is Fighting Global Disinformation | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Jim Irizarry has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of false and misleading information about voting access coursing through social media lately. The assistant county clerk for San Mateo County, California, and his team have been training for this moment for years, since the sophisticated Russian disinformation machine emerged during the last presidential election. “They don’t have to change a vote in the voting machines,” Irizarry said. “But if you can get into the minds of voters to undermine their confidence in casting that ballot, you’ve been successful.” This year, state and local election officials across the country expect they’ll need to defend voters against potentially devastating and widespread disinformation attacks that could suppress turnout and sow doubt in November’s results. Bad actors, from foreign nations to local gadflies, have countless opportunities to spread falsehoods and misleading information. In recent elections, voters have fallen victim to scams claiming people can vote by text message or claiming their polling place closed. Lies on social media can go viral hours before an election, becoming nearly impossible to eliminate. And Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report found Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race included fake Facebook groups and false advertising. This year, the pandemic has exposed more potential for disinformation, as states and counties scramble to figure out how to conduct elections through expanded mail-in voting and fewer polling places.

National: Who’s going to derail the U.S. presidential election? The culprit may be close to home | Deirdre Shesgreen and Kim Hjelmgaard/USA Today

Fearing nightmare scenarios such as attacks on voter registration databases and state websites tallying results, U.S. officials are leading simulated training exercises to get ready for Nov. 3. The “tabletop exercises,” to be held virtually because of coronavirus, will include thousands of state and local election officials in addition to intelligence and cybersecurity officials in Washington amid concerns about threats from Russia, China and other countries. “We try to make it a pretty bad day,” said Matthew Masterson, an adviser with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, part of the Department of Homeland Security. CISA is charged with helping to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber and physical attacks, including its election systems. Still, Masterson and other experts say the U.S. is now far better prepared to weather potential election meddling by Russia or other foreign adversaries than in 2016, when the Kremlin hacked into Democratic Party emails and orchestrated a sophisticated disinformation campaign designed to help elect then-candidate Donald Trump. CISA officials have worked with state and local election authorities to identify vulnerabilities in voter registration databases, dispatched cybersecurity experts to look for intrusions and improved communication among states, campaigns and U.S. intelligence officials about the threat landscape. The training exercises will game out scenarios, including foreign disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks on election infrastructure, or simply overwhelmed and understaffed polling places across the country.

National: ‘Things could get very ugly’: Experts fear post-election crisis as Trump sets the stage to dispute the results in November | Marshall Cohen/CNN

Voting experts and political strategists from across the political spectrum are increasingly alarmed about the potential for a disputed presidential election in November, one in which one candidate openly questions the legitimacy of the results or even refuses to concede. These experts are keenly aware of President Donald Trump’s well-documented history of lying about voter fraud and claiming that elections were “rigged” when he doesn’t like the outcome. They also see a Democratic base that is still burned from 2016, when its nominee was dragged down in part by Russian meddling operation, won the popular vote, and lost to Trump. Interviews with nearly 20 election experts, former lawmakers, political strategists, legal scholars and historians indicate there are widespread fears of a nightmare scenario in November, where Trump’s norm-breaking behavior — coupled with the unprecedented challenges of pandemic-era voting — test the limits of American democracy and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. “There’s a significant scope for an unprecedented post-election crisis in this country,” said Larry Diamond, an expert on democratic institutions at the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution. Sharpening these concerns, it became clearer than ever over the weekend that Trump is willing to dispute the results. He was repeatedly pressed in a Fox News interview on Sunday, and refused to commit that he will accept the outcome of the election. “I have to see,” Trump replied, “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

National: Spy chief sees 2020 election security as ‘number one goal’ | Lauren C. Williams/FCW

One of America’s top spies said that checking foreign interference in the November vote is a primary concern. “Our number one goal, our number one objective at the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command — a safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections,” said Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads both agencies, during an Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) virtual event on July 20. Nakasone said the goal is to build on lessons learned from 2018 midterm elections for 2020 so the U.S. will, “know our adversaries better than they know themselves.” Nakasone said that to shore up election security efforts, NSA and CyberCom will look to “broaden partnerships” with academia, which have ongoing research efforts that look at social media and influence operations, and respond accordingly when adversaries attempt to interfere with elections. “2018 was a really remarkable year because at that point we had well-trained and well-led forces at U.S. Cyber Command and NSA come together with the right authorities and policies and also match with this idea of having an organizational construct,” Nakasone said.

National: Increase in mail-in ballots due to COVID has created greater election integrity, government official says | Catherine Sanz/ABC

The integrity of the 2020 election may be improved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a leading cybersecurity expert. Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said Friday an increased reliance on mail-in and absentee ballots, which have a paper record associated with them, may be a blessing in disguise. Paper records, he said, are critical to election security because they lead to auditability. “Auditability is a key element of being able to determine the integrity of a vote,” Krebs said. “To roll it back, make sure you got the right results, and, more than anything proving, through a post-election audit process, that the votes cast are counted as cast.” Krebs spoke as part of an online forum on election security hosted by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank based in Washington, D.C. He said that in the 2016 election, around 82% of votes cast had a paper record associated with them. Looking ahead to Nov. 4, he said that figure may be over 92% due to the expected increase in COVID-related absentee ballots. “Again, the ability to conduct post-election audits is critical to establishing the integrity of the election,” he added.

National: The Essential and Enduring Strength of John Lewis | Jelani Cobb/The New Yorker

By the time John Lewis made his exit from this realm, on Friday, his life had been bound so tightly and for so long to the mythos of the movement for democracy in America that it was difficult to separate him from it. For this reason, a friend who texted me “John Lewis is gone, what are we going to do now?” was not only reacting to grief but expressing a real and common sentiment. Lewis, who spoke at the March on Washington, chaired the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and served seventeen terms in Congress, representing Georgia’s Fifth District, succumbed to pancreatic cancer, a ruthless and efficient plague whose diagnosis is fatal around ninety-five per cent of the time. When he revealed his condition, last December, hope persisted despite those odds, in part because, for many people, the thought of confronting the reactionary, racist, and antidemocratic realities of the Trump era without one of the nation’s most potent symbols of decency was too difficult to countenance. Those contrasts were not merely hypothetical. In 2017, when President Trump announced that he would attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Lewis said that he would not. The then White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemed to accuse Lewis of failing to show proper respect for the movement. Months earlier, Trump had attacked the Fifth District as “crime-infested” and suggested that the blame lay with Lewis. I wrote at the time that Trump’s disdain for Lewis betrayed a theme: having never grasped the concept of sacrifice, the President is contemptuous of people whose lives have been defined by it. No criticism that Lewis issued about Trump was as strong an indictment as the simple facts of his life: born to Alabama sharecroppers, stalwart of SNCC, leader, exemplar of humility.

National: John Lewis, front-line civil rights leader and eminence of Capitol Hill, dies at 80 | Laurence I. Barrett/The Washington Post

John Lewis, a civil rights leader who preached nonviolence while enduring beatings and jailings during seminal front-line confrontations of the 1960s and later spent more than three decades in Congress defending the crucial gains he had helped achieve for people of color, has died. He was 80. His death was announced in statements from his family and from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Advisers to senior Democratic leaders confirmed that he died July 17, but other details were not immediately available. Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, announced his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 29 and said he planned to continue working amid treatment. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.” His last public appearance came at Black Lives Matter Plaza with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on June 7, two days after taping a virtual town hall online with former president Barack Obama. While Mr. Lewis was not a policy maven as a lawmaker, he served the role of conscience of the Democratic caucus on many matters. His reputation as keeper of the 1960s flame defined his career in Congress. When President George H.W. Bush vetoed a bill easing requirements to bring employment discrimination suits in 1990, Mr. Lewis rallied support for its revival. It became law as the Civil Rights Act of 1991. It took a dozen years, but in 2003 he won authorization for construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall.

National: How the Twitter Hack Revealed a Risky 2020 Election System | David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Over the past year government officials have raced to help states replace voting machines that leave no paper trail, and to harden vulnerable online voter registration systems that many fear Russia, or others, could hijack to trigger chaos on Election Day. But this week, the country got a startling vision of other perils in political disinformation — and how many other ways there may be to manipulate turnout, if not votes. The breach by a hacker or hackers who bored into the command center of Twitter on Wednesday — seizing control of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s and Barack Obama’s blue-checked accounts, among many others — served as a warning that some of the most critical infrastructure that could influence the election is not in the hands of government experts, and is far less protected than anyone assumed even a day ago. The hackers probably did the nation a favor. With a crude scheme to deceive users into thinking that Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama were asking them for donations in Bitcoin — which sent more than $120,000 flowing into their cryptocurrency wallets — they revealed how simple it may be to imitate the powerful and the trusted. Had saboteurs infiltrated Twitter on Nov. 3 instead of in the middle of July, with the goal of upending the election, the political fallout could have been quite different. False warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in key precincts in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania could have untold impact on a close vote in a battleground state. Deceptive tweets from political party accounts saying polling places were closed could sow confusion.

National: Tens of thousands of mail ballots have been tossed out in this year’s primaries. What will happen in November? | lise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

More than 18,500 Floridians’ ballots were not counted during the March presidential primary after many arrived by mail after the deadline. In Nevada, about 6,700 ballots were rejected in June because election officials could not verify voters’ signatures. And during Pennsylvania’s primary last month, only state and court orders prevented tens of thousands of late-returned ballots from being disqualified. As a resurgence in coronavirus cases portends another possible flood of absentee voting this fall, the issue of rejected ballots has emerged as a serious concern around the country, including in presidential battleground states and those with races that will decide control of the House and Senate. While the number of rejected ballots in Florida and Nevada represents a fraction of those cast in their primaries, the unprecedented shift toward absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic could make such margins potentially significant in the fall. In 2016, roughly 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin helped Donald Trump win the White House. The rejection of ballots because of mail delays, signature match problems and errors in completing and sealing the forms could end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people, voting rights advocates warn. It could also fuel doubts about the integrity of the 2020 vote, which Trump has already claimed without evidence will be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.” The growing risks has party officials and voting rights activists on high alert, raising the stakes for dozens of ongoing legal battles over absentee voting rules and placing additional pressure on election officials, whose staffs and budgets are already stretched thin by the demands of administering the vote during a pandemic.

National: Congress To Hold Hearing On Remote Voting Technology, Blockchain Not Invited | Jason Brett/Forbes

On Friday, the House of Representatives will hold a virtual hearing titled, “Exploring the Feasibility and Security of Technology To Conduct Remote Voting In The House.” Unlike the discussion for how Americans would vote anonymously in a primary or general election, this hearing narrowly discusses how our elected representatives can safely vote on legislative bills from a location other than our nation’s Capitol. On May 15th, the House of Representatives broke with a tradition held for 231 years since 1789, when to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be in person. The current notion of proxy voting, where if I lived in and represented Hawaii and you were representing Virginia, I could entrust you to vote for me so as not to make the long and less socially-distance choice of travel by plane. However, the House now explores taking this concept one step further, and while for many corporations the idea of remote working, when possible, is considered a given based on the current state of affairs in our country, the fully remote option clashes against the long-standing traditions of what it means to represent our country.

National: DNC’s email voting plan limits hacking risk but can’t eliminate it | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Democratic National Committee’s virtual convention next month will mark a major test for whether Internet-based voting can be done safely and securely. The DNC, which is moving its convention online because of the coronavirus pandemic, released a plan Friday for delegates to vote by email for the Democratic presidential nominee and planks in the party’s platform. Internet voting presents far fewer risks in this case than it would during a regular election because delegates’ ballots aren’t secret. That means they can verify their votes weren’t altered either by hackers or technological snafus and correct any errors after the fact. There’s also no drama about the outcome of the most important vote because former vice president Joe Biden has basically already secured the Democratic nomination. But it still presents numerous opportunities for hackers from Russia or elsewhere to disrupt the voting process, sow confusion about results or use disinformation operations to spread conspiracy theories or gin up hostilities between rival camps supporting Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And any disruption is likely to spark painful memories of 2016 when information Russia hacked and leaked from the DNC helped wreak havoc on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That means the DNC must be hyper-prepared to knock back any allegations of digital interference or rapidly respond to attacks even as it runs a convention unlike any in history.

National: What It’s Been Like to Vote in 2020 So Far | Evan Nicole Brown/The New York Times

Over the past five months, people have waited in all sorts of lines to vote: some bent around stuccoed store corners, some curving through city parks, others spaced six feet apart. On Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Texas and Maine went to the polls in primary and runoff contests for one of the final election days before Election Day on Nov. 3. The coronavirus crisis has upended every aspect of life in 2020, including how people vote. More than a dozen states postponed elections, some more than once, as they scrambled to figure out how to safely conduct voting in the midst of a pandemic. But even before the virus took hold in the United States, caucuses didn’t go according to plan, and high turnout meant long lines in some states on Super Tuesday. How much of a hassle it is to vote is generally a matter of design, not accident, according to Carol Anderson, the author of “One Person, No Vote” and a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “Long lines are deliberate, because they deal with the allocation of resources,” Professor Anderson said. She said it’s frustrating to see long lines reported in the news media as evidence of voter enthusiasm: “What they really show is government ineptness. And oftentimes a deliberate deployment of not enough resources in minority communities.” Here is a look at what it was like to vote in 2020.

National: As Trump and Biden battle, election officials are running out of time, money for November | Pat Beall, Catharina Felke and Elizabeth Mulvey/USA Today

Heading into Georgia’s primary June 9, McDuffie County Elections Director Phyllis Brooks had no choice but to assemble a last-minute crew to count votes. Two of her three staffers were out with COVID-19. She had more than 2,500 absentee ballots to tally by hand. Brooks brought in a handful of county employees and hired teenagers to do the counting. There’s no money left in her election office budget. Not for poll workers. Not for extra hands to count what is likely to be a record number of mail-in ballots. Not even for stamps to send out the absentee ballots they expect to need. Sixteen weeks before the presidential election, Brooks and hundreds of other cash-strapped elections supervisors across the nation are waiting to see how much state and federal money will come their way. Experts said the coronavirus pandemic tacked on hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs to this year’s election, and there are clear signs that an emergency federal infusion of $400 million made in March will fall far short of what’s needed.

National: Scattered problems with mail-in ballots this year signal potential November challenges for Postal Service | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

Postal workers found three tubs of uncounted absentee ballots the day after the Wisconsin primary. Some Ohioans did not receive their ballots in time for the election because of mail delays. And in Dallas, absentee ballots some voters sent to the county were returned just days before Election Day, with no explanation. Problems caused by a spike in absentee voting during this year’s primaries are serving as potential warning signs for the U.S. Postal Service, which is bracing for an expected onslaught of mail-in ballots this fall as states and cities push alternatives to in-person voting because of the pandemic. The concern extends to local elections offices that may be unaccustomed to aspects of the mail, such as the time it takes for parcels to reach their destinations and how to design their ballots to meet postal standards. So the Postal Service is regularly sending advice and checklists to thousands of elections officials. Local elections offices are hiring temporary workers to process absentee ballots, and some local elections boards are adding options for voters to do curbside drop-offs of their mail ballots on Election Day. The Postal Service is also recommending that voters request their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day and mail their completed ballots at least one week before the due date.

National: Coronavirus Election Funding Could Increase After Primaries | Miles Parks/NPR

Ever since the pandemic struck, state and local election officials across the country have made it clear: To avoid an election disaster in November, they need more money now. Congressional Republicans are now signalling a new willingness to provide that, after initial fears from voting rights advocates that the federal government would provide no more support than the $400 million that came as part of a March relief package. Experts expect as many as 70% of all ballots cast in November’s presidential election will be cast through the mail, a quick and radical shift that will require equipment upgrades and greatly increase costs for cash-strapped states and counties. During the 2018 midterms, about a quarter of ballots were cast by mail. Officials across the country, like Lynn Bailey, who is the board of elections executive director of Augusta, Ga., are looking ahead to November and wondering how they will pay for it. Bailey testified Wednesday as part of an Election Assistance Commission hearing about the 2020 primaries. She said Georgia’s June 9 primary cost about 60 percent more than a normal election would have in her jurisdiction, due to adjustments made as a result of the pandemic. “We had about a 35 percent turnout rate in our jurisdiction in this past election, and we know that in November that number will likely double,” Bailey said. “We can only expect therefore that our budget will likely double over what we spent this time, if not more.”

National: These are the top things officials say they need to run November’s elections | oseph Marks/The Washington Post

More money, better and earlier planning by political leaders – and a big dose of bipartisan cooperation. Those are some of the top-line items state and local election officials are seeking as they scramble to prepare for November’s general election. The officials were summoned by the Election Assistance Commission, a federal body that helps guide best practices for elections, to pore over the good, the bad and the ugly from more than three months of primaries since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March. They described elections that were completely revamped in a matter of weeks and massive shortages of poll workers, since many were not willing or able to risk their health by showing up on Election Day. The percentage of absentee voters climbed to 10 and even 20 times their typical levels in many states. The public hearing was among just a handful of instances when election officials from different states will gather before November, in hopes the lessons learned will help the general election run more smoothly. “It’s difficult to plan for this election [because] we always look back on history,” Sherry L. Poland, director of elections for Hamilton County, Ohio, told commissioners. “For presidential elections, you look back on past presidential elections …We have no history to go back to of conducting an election during a pandemic.”

National: Election Meddling Drives DHS to Seek Help Tracking Social Media | Shaun Courtney/Bloomberg

The Homeland Security Department has posted a help-wanted ad to track and analyze social media disinformation campaigns by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea targeting the U.S. 2020 election. “There is a significant amount of foreign influence activity targeting U.S. 2020 elections on social media platforms,” the DHS said in its June 30 solicitation. The intelligence community’s “lack of capability and resources in this area result in this activity being left largely untracked.” The “foreign influence collection and analysis will result in raw and finished intelligence products that support election security and countering foreign influence efforts,” it said. The DHS said it wants access to software tools and training for social media monitoring by agency personnel, though the contractor would also engage in monitoring and analysis. The solicitation’s open warning of foreign efforts, including from Russia, to interfere in U.S. domestic politics marks a call for help, just four months before the November elections, to counter a threat that’s been long known. “They’ve had four years of runway to get prepared for the 2020 election and to stop foreign interference, let alone internal interference from other extremist groups from within the United States,” Sam Woolley, author of “The Reality Game” and a University of Texas at Austin professor, said in an interview. “This move by DHS shows that the current administration hasn’t taken this issue seriously.”

National: State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Top state and local election officials on Wednesday begged Congress to appropriate more election funding ahead of November to address COVID-19 challenges. Congress sent $400 million to states to address COVID-19 election concerns as part of the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Election officials testified during an Election Assistance Commission (EAC) summit on Wednesday that those funds were running out. “It’s looking like I spent close to 60 percent of my CARES Act funding on the primary election,” Jared Dearing, the executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, testified. “To put that in context, we are expecting turnout to go from 30 percent, which was a record high for a primary election, to as much as 70 percent.” Dearing noted that only around 2 percent of ballots in Kentucky are typically cast through mail-in voting, but that number increased to 75 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, a change he said would require further funds to address. “Where we procure these funds and how much this is going to cost is incredibly concerning,” Dearing said. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) also testified in favor of the federal government sending more funds, but argued the funds should be sent with fewer strings attached. “Clearly we welcome more resources, the goal here is we want more stable and consistent funding, because we have COVID, we may be facing COVID in the next elections,” Pate said.

National: Prospect of chaos in November grows as coronavirus cases rise and Trump escalates attacks on voting | Abby Phillip/CNN

The rickety, decentralized election system that has been a hallmark of American life is facing its most significant test yet under the combined pressure of a worsening coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s determination to undermine faith in the voting system. In November, this year’s presidential election could be unlike anything the country has seen in at least 20 years, when the results of the 2000 election hinged on paper ballots and hanging chads. As Trump’s poll numbers have flagged this summer, he has increasingly resorted to baseless allegations of widespread cheating and claims that Democrats will corrupt the result of the election through mail-in voting. And as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, the need for alternatives to in-person voting is becoming more urgent by the day. Republicans and Democrats are now preparing for a pitched legal battle over which votes will count and when they should be counted. States are struggling to retrofit their voting process to meet the needs of voters concerned about risking their lives to cast their ballot. And primary elections held so far this summer indicate that November could bring historic turnout, albeit via mail-in ballots — and correspondingly, a lengthy wait for election results.

National: Trump’s voting by mail assaults could cost him the election | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

President Trump’s assaults against voting by mail may backfire and sink his own reelection chances in November. Republicans have voted by mail in far lower numbers than Democrats in a string of primaries since Trump began falsely claiming the process would lead to widespread fraud, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report. That could be an electoral disaster for the president, who’s locked in a difficult reelection race — especially if the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult or risky for many of his supporters to vote in person. The issue was already dividing Trump from Republican election officials who have generally joined Democrats in trying to vastly expand mail voting during the pandemic so people don’t have to risk their health to cast ballots. Now it’s splitting him from his own party’s strategists. The president’s criticism of mail voting “does reduce the likelihood of Republicans embracing this process,” a senior GOP strategist told my colleagues. “Especially for older, more rural voters, that could be important for Republicans getting out the vote in 2020. I don’t want ‘I will not vote by mail’ to become a political statement. But it may be too late.” The rift is especially noteworthy because voting by mail has not historically been a partisan issue. Many right-leaning states, such as Utah and Arizona, have embraced the process with large percentages of their populations casting mail ballots. Many left-leaning states, including Massachusetts and New York, have shied away from it.

National: House Democrats include $500M for election security in annual appropriations bill | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Democrats on a House Appropriations Committee panel included $500 million to boost election security as part of their version of an annual funding bill introduced Tuesday. The version of the fiscal 2021 Financial Services and General Government spending bill rolled out by the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government would appropriate half a billion dollars to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to “enhance election technology and make election security improvements.” The bill, which will be debated by the subcommittee Wednesday, specifies that states may only use the election security funds to replace “direct-recording electronic” voting equipment with voting systems that use some form of paper ballots. States would only be allowed to use any remaining funds once they have certified to the EAC that all direct-recording election equipment has been replaced. Experts have strongly advised against the use of direct-recording electronic voting equipment, which has no backup paper record of how an individual voted.

National: ‘It’s egregious’: thousands of mail-in ballots could be rejected over small errors | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Rosalie Weisfeld doesn’t skip elections – she just doesn’t. The 64-year-old lives in McAllen, near the Texas-Mexico border, and she votes in the contests that a lot of people sit out – races for school board, water district and local runoffs. In the more than 40 years she’s been registered to vote, Weisfeld only remembers missing one election. But last year, her nearly-perfect record was broken. Weisfeld voted by mail in a local race, signed her ballot and mailed it in well ahead of election day. More than a month later, Weisfeld got a letter back saying election officials had rejected her ballot. They examined the signature Weisfeld put on the ballot, compared it to one they had on file, and determined they weren’t from the same person. By then, she had no recourse. The election was over. “I was shocked, I was sad, I was upset. I became mad and angry that my right to vote was taken away from me without any kind of consultation,” said Weisfeld, now a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the way Texas rejects absentee ballots. “No one called me, no one sent me a letter. No one sent me an email to ask me ‘is this your signature?’” As more Americans vote by mail this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s concern that thousands of eligible voters like Weisfeld could have their ballots rejected for small errors without a chance to fix them. Mail-in ballots were more likely to be rejected in the 2016 election than ones cast in person. In a typical election only a small percentage of mail-in ballots get rejected (318,728 ballots, around 1% of those returned, were uncounted in the 2016 general election), according to data compiled by the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). That could rise starkly during the presidential election when an unprecedented number of people are expected to vote by mail.

National: Election Experts Warn of November Disaster | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

After a presidential primary season plagued by long lines, confusion over mail-in voting and malfunctioning equipment, election experts are increasingly concerned about the resiliency of American democracy in the face of a global pandemic. With four months until the presidential election, the litany of unresolved issues could block some voters from casting ballots and lead many citizens to distrust the outcome of one of the most pivotal races of their lifetimes. There is widespread concern among voting activists, experts and elections officials that it will take further federal investment in local election systems, massive voter education campaigns and election administrators’ ingenuity to prevent a disaster come November. “The coronavirus has really laid bare the cracks in our system,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program. Even before the pandemic, Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said he was worried about the state of U.S. elections. He warned in his recent book Election Meltdown about the effects that misinformation, administrative incompetence and voter suppression efforts would have on the 2020 presidential election.

National: Can Our Ballots Be Both Secret and Secure? | Sue Halpern/The New Yorker

Near the end of last year, I met Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft, in a conference room in Building 99 on the company’s sprawling campus, in Redmond, Washington, to talk about a fundamental problem with American elections. When we vote, we take it on faith that our ballots have been recorded—and recorded correctly. This is not always the case. In 2015, in Shelby County, Tennessee, hundreds of votes that were cast in predominantly African-American precincts disappeared somewhere between the polling place and the final tally. Where they had gone, and why, remains a mystery, because the ballots were cast on a touch-screen voting machine that did not provide a paper record. In 2018, three thousand votes went missing during a Florida recount. The next year, eight hundred uncounted ballots were found in a storage closet in Midland, Texas, after a hotly contested school-bond vote. To prevent these types of errors, Benaloh said, “You could, in theory, sign your name on your ballot and watch it go through the system.” In actual elections, however, that is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Our ballots are secret; after we drop them in the ballot box, they are, literally, out of our hands.

National: Voting rules changed quickly for the primaries. But the battle over how Americans will cast ballots in the fall is just heating up. | Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

When the novel coronavirus pandemic collided with this year’s primaries, states across the country raced to temporarily adjust voting procedures to make it safer for people to cast their ballots. But efforts to set rules for the general election are now locked in more intractable fights, fueled by deepening polarization around voting practices and a torrent of litigation aimed at shaping how ballots are cast and counted. While the vast majority of voters were permitted to cast absentee ballots during the primaries, only about 10 states so far have announced that they will make voting by mail easier for November, raising fears that Election Day could be marked by long lines and unsafe conditions at polling locations if the health crisis persists. With Republican governors under pressure from President Trump not to expand voting by mail and many legislatures adjourned for the year or deadlocked along party lines, changes in the coming months are likely to come through court decisions. Legal battles in about two dozen states are now poised to shape the details of how roughly 130 million registered voters are able to cast ballots in upcoming contests, with more than 60 lawsuits related to absentee voting and other rules wending their way through the courts, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

National: In new guidance, CDC recommends alternatives in addition to in-person voting to avoid spreading coronavirus | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that voters consider alternatives to casting their ballots in person during upcoming elections, as states expand absentee and early voting options for November amid fears of spreading the coronavirus. The guidance was issued with little fanfare on June 22 and suggested that state and local election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including offering “alternative voting methods.” President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that one popular alternative — mail-in ballots — promotes widespread voter fraud. Voters who want to cast ballots in person should consider showing up at off-peak times, bringing their own black ink pens or touch-screen pens for voting machines, and washing their hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, the guidance said. Workers and voters alike, it said, should wear face coverings. The guidance aims to help voters, poll workers and election officials take precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, which has already disrupted some primary elections this year and could be a source of turmoil in the upcoming presidential election. The guidance is now being circulated by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent federal agency, and congressional leaders. Senate Democrats on Tuesday drew attention to the guidelines, noting that they had been requesting such a resource since May.

National: Trump’s attacks on mail voting are turning Republicans off absentee ballots | Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots — a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries this spring, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. And when they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots, according to multiple strategists. In one particularly vivid example, a group of Michigan voters held a public burning of their absentee ballot applications last month. The growing Republican antagonism toward voting by mail comes even as the Trump campaign is launching a major absentee-ballot program in every competitive state, according to multiple campaign advisers — a delicate balancing act, considering what one strategist described as the president’s “imprecision” on the subject. “It’s very concerning for Republicans,” said a top party operative, who like several others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Trump’s ire. “I guarantee our Republican Senate candidates are having it drilled into them that they cannot accept this. They have to have sophisticated mail programs. If we don’t adapt, we won’t win.”